For the most part, negotiators working on an overarching agreement at the Rio+20 Earth Summit are gray-haired bureaucrats and aging policy wonks who are so concerned about today's politics that they sometimes have a problem seeing the future.
Today, though, young people take center stage at Rio+20.
The UN Environment Programme, along with the Earth Child Institute and other partners, is hosting an event called The Power of One Child: Youth and Children Leading the Way. As the groups point out, today’s children are the ones who will be affected by the decisions that negotiators and governments are making at Rio+20.
On the other side of town from Rio Centro, where the negotiations are taking place, the “People’s Summit” is getting cranked up, with a call for participants -- especially the youth of the world -- to “come re-invent the world.”
One young person in particular is getting a little extra limelight. Brittany Trilford, a 17-year old from New Zealand, won an all-expenses paid trip to Rio+20 as part of a video contest created to let the young people of the world tell diplomats and other officials about the future they want.
Tonight, Trilford will lead an event called Speaking Truth Power: Listening to the Demands of Future Generations. High-powered “listeners” who will be on stage with her include the CEO of Virgin United, the vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and leaders of numerous environmental groups, including NRDC’s Frances Beineke.
Charged Up About Renewables
One of the biggest concerns of youth is where they'll get their energy tomorrow. (Those iPads and iPods aren't much good if they don’t have electricity, after all.) Today is Energy Day at Rio+20, so dozens of panels and discussions will focus on how local communities can expand their sources of clean and renewable energy.
Europe leads the world in when it comes to renewable energy. Europe as a whole gets about 7 percent of its power from wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable sources; Germany gets almost 11 percent of its juice from those sources.
Yet smaller countries are even more advanced. Iceland, Portugal, and New Zealand, for example, get more than 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources.
And what about the United States? We get a mere 2.7 percent of our electricity from renewables. And some in Congress and their supporters in the fossil fuel industry want any investments and government support of renewables to end right there -- even though in poll after poll, Americans say they want more renewable energy.
That was what had the twitterati at Rio+20 atwitter into the wee hours of this morning.
More than 100,000 people from around the globe sent Twitter messages asking UN negotiators and government officials at Rio+20 to end the nearly $1 trillion in government fossil fuel subsidies. The 24-hour “tweetstorm” organized by environmental groups ran through 5 a.m. Tuesday.
High-profile tweeters ranged from actor-activist Robert Redford to the New York Times' Nick Kristof to Representative Nancy Pelosi and White House public engagement director Jon Carson.
Editor’s note: Correspondent Bob Keefe will provide agenda-setting tips and inside information for reporters and observers tracking the United Nations’ Rio+20 Earth Summit. Follow his dispatches and send him tips.